31 August 2011


One of my friends celebrated her birthday last night so the Ladies Who Lunch became the Ladies Who Drink Cocktails at a Rooftop Bar While the Sun Sets.

The conversation took its twists and turns throughout the evening, touching on subjects of work, lack of work, relationships and whether men or women have it easier here in Singapore. It was undisputedly decided that men have it much easier, especially when unattached.

Asian cultures have always associated a man’s status with how much money, power and how many women he has. In China, a man was supposed to achieve high society standing, take a wife and gain as many concubines as he could. The wife who would reign over the concubines in the household was known as a tai tai.

Though concubines may not be as prevalent in today’s societies, the practice of having affairs is one that is in play and somewhat accepted, especially here in Asia.

The term “tai tai” is still around but the meaning has been adapted to now reflect a wealthy woman who does not work. According to a local Singaporean, my group of friends is a group of tai tais, something “everyone wants to be.”

My friends and I laughed at the thought, especially since one is working and the rest of us are all diligently trying to find employment. Curious, I Googled the tern this morning and I came across a website that had some true Asian perspective on what it takes to be a tai tai.

According to the site we:
  • Must have a tremendous amount of leisure time. If doing what I want to do every day of my life constitutes a lot of leisure time, then I think I have this one. Check.
  • Must have lots of money to spend and does so by traveling. I have not left the island since we landed so….no.
  • Have to be concerned with status and owning only the latest hot items. Um, no.
  • Must be obsessed with looking young and must spend practically every hour in the salon to ensure that we look the best from any angle. Not exactly.
  • Should be associated with community involvement. OK, I do go to church, events sponsored by the American Women’s Association and I am volunteering for a Singaporean charity. Check this one.
  • Should be conscious of company and socializing with the right people. I don’t really socialize based on hierarchy but I do select my friends based on my own standards. But I am not sure that qualifies me here.
  • Must be well educated and must have abided on more than one continent. Check.
  • Must buy a lot, in multiple quantities, of the certified high-end goods. I can certainly say that I have never spent more than $400 on a purse or a pair of shoes, I have never spent more than $600 in a single shopping adventure and the name Chanel cannot be found on anything that I own, so no check for me.

For those not keeping score on this Cosmopolitan survey, I rank 3 out of 8. So a tai tai I may not be, but an expat wife I am, and I am grateful that my unemployed expat lifestyle allows me the opportunity to play hostess all next week when my first round of visitors makes the trek around the globe! 

No comments: